Carl Adamshick

(Toledo , OH)

The Emptiness - Poem by Carl Adamshick

I DIDN'T WANT to give my body to war.
I saw news footage of a fly

in a dead man's mouth. I saw a man
made to kneel and then told,

in a language he couldn't
comprehend, to lie flat on his stomach.

The camera caught the bullets entering
his spine, the base of his skull

and then the men walked away
from the emptiness.

The camera too turned and ran
through leaves, green and lashing.

If it had stayed, we would have seen rain
pelt the soldier's back, wash his fatigues.

We would have seen his body as insects
lived on the continent of his flesh,

lived until he was bone, until he was dirt,
until his emptiness sang.

I was afraid of the men walking,
of seeing the sky, lightly clouded, as blood

flowed out of my body. I dreamt
of a helmet with a butchered foot beside it

and knew it was my brother's,
but couldn't remember his name.

I left the green grass of high school,
walked under the tall oaks

to the post office.
I filled in the little boxes with the letters

of my name,
looked out the plate-glass window

at a four-way stop, a flag limp in the heat,
in the bright air. I signed,

telling them where I lived,
that I was willing, that when they sent

the card I'd wear the uniform.
But I lied. I couldn't

have been fitted for the infantry garb,
the sanguinary rank.

In the weeks that followed
I felt occupied, silenced like a clean,

smooth conch echoing the sea,
an open urn.

The emptiness of my mouth
began. I wanted to say I'd seen

the tree of night,
its crown holding the great stars,

the beginning recorded in the center
ring of its bole,

but said nothing.
I saw that we were the ancient text,

the blood, the next inscription
on the unending trunk,

and said nothing.
I stood there and in seeing its splendor

was injured
by the senselessness of my nights and days.

The forked branch of my existence
was lit like a crack

of lightning.
My breath, my tongue, the broken font

of my voice had wanted to praise.
And when I didn't speak

I became a secret, a testimony
against my own body. I lived and lived

with the fact that I watched others
struggle and pray.

I watched them lie on the shore
with their heads adrift in a shine of stars

and wanted their hunger
to finally consume their sad, hurting bodies.

I watched, hoping
when the tide came and lifted them away

I could live without shame.
The emptiness. The tongue bound

to the betrayal
held in the mouth, to the apology held

in the mouth, to the brutal remains
held in the socket of the mouth.

And still, under it all,
I feel an orchid, the cold river flow

around my feet. I see the stars
as the shimmering bones

of migratory birds
and swallow the humiliating taste

of beauty. I am the dirt,
the worm-dirge, the lament and procession

winding through a garden burning
with flowers.

I am not the body that dies naked,
swollen and torn,

infested with beetles.
I am not the body that lacks

its funeral and its offering of plums.
I am not the body,

the empty midnight station.
I am not the bombed-out factory,

its machinery covered in snow.
I am veins and breath, the entrance

and exit the world passes through.
I see a quickening end in a blue,

twisted cord and know I am its habitation.
I see the severed hands of a war

and feel it
escape into me like a tired lover

I comfort into the dark hours,
where my body, swathed with heat

and sorrow, listens to air
pass through the gate of its teeth.

The wonderment of being
in the hive, in the astonishment of days,

when light around the field is spilt moon
and memory is a nest

of mud and grass hidden in the bright
summer branches,

when emptiness is an open door,
the well-black pupil of an iris.

I am lost in the living, in the acceptance
of rain filling a bucket,

in the belief
that the chemical burn was a washing

for the exodus
and the smoke rising through the chimneys

into the pale-blue morning was a love song.
There are days when I wake

and find my face is a hole
and I have nowhere to hang my mask.


Comments about The Emptiness by Carl Adamshick

  • Paras Ali (1/12/2016 9:51:00 PM)


    Powerful imagery. keep it up. (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Udaya R. Tennakoon (1/12/2016 4:30:00 AM)


    a very goog poem, thanks for sharing (Report) Reply

  • Nosheen Irfan (1/12/2016 3:45:00 AM)


    Wowww..this is powerful writing. Worth many readings. Deserves a huge 10. Great work. Thanks for sharing. (Report) Reply

Read all 3 comments »



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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, January 12, 2016



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